In the last academic year, our unit launched the Advanced Certificate Program in Romani Studies. Mihaela Lisia Pamfilie was among the three MA students who graduated in June and earned their Advanced Certificate in Romani Studies. Lisia was an MA student at the Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology, where she was planning on writing her MA thesis about a Roma community in Romania. For her, pursuing the classes of the Advanced Certificate Program was an obvious choice.
This is what Lisia shared about her experiences as one of our first graduating students:
Because I wrote my MA thesis proposal about a specific Roma community, I kept exploring the elective courses of other departments, and that’s how I took some of the required classes of the AC without even knowing about the Program. At last, when I learnt about the Program, I enrolled officially, and I began to understand what critical approaches to Romani studies was meant to achieve.
The curriculum expanded my previous understanding, going beyond class and poverty, and helped me approach not only my thesis topic but also the world around me from an intersectional perspective.
My favorite class was Roma Inclusion Policies in Europe: Policy Puzzles with Violetta Zentai. The course not only helped me understand how I would like to develop my thesis, but also made me curious about many other topics.
One of the most memorable Advanced Certificate Program in-class activities was the final assignment of this course. We were asked to use the critical perspectives we had learned during the term in order to design an intersectional policy for Roma migrants in Western Europe.
This task was very difficult, but insightful. While doing the research, I found myself very passionate and I also understood what was lacking in my knowledge. I use this insight in my current work, where I continue to explore this area.
The most valuable thing for me was the group that we had during the academic year, students that were concerned about the same things, that shared their experiences in the safe space that we created, students that made Vienna feel like home for me. I felt connected and motivated throughout the year to do the readings, to engage in discussions and to offer and receive feedback from them. I am deeply grateful that the courses I took for the AC guided me in writing my thesis, challenged me to question the certainties I had, but also provided resources that expanded my knowledge.
I currently work for Roma Entrepreneurship Development Initiative (REDI) which is an NGO that I admire a lot. At REDI, I am researching the needs and challenges of Roma entrepreneurs and craftsmen/artisans. This research suits my future research proposal for a sociology PhD program.
Advanced Certificate students are required to write their thesis on a topic related to Roma rights, advocacy/policies. The abstract and the full text of Lisia’s MA thesis is available below:
Poverty and social policy: guaranteed minimum income among a Roma community in Romania
This research aims to discuss how a specific social policy in Romania is applied in a local context, in a multiethnic rural area with a high index of material deprivation. Moreover, it investigates a general inspection in Romania that was proposed by the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection in January 2021, and it involves a specific social transfer -Guaranteed Minimum Income (GMI). The goal is counting how many families that receive this financial aid can work but “choose to stay on benefits”. Fieldwork consisted of ethnographic research and interviews conducted in Bolduț with welfare workers and Roma GMI beneficiaries as a suitable way to grasp the realities and outcomes of the national program at a local level. This research site will illustrate how social policy is intertwined with local perspectives of racialized poverty, activation on the labor market and “deservingness”. The discriminatory discourse can shape what kind of assistance is seen by the state representatives as fair and ethical and can influence the quantum at a national level and the access at a local level. Framing who deserves or not can be based on the dominant discourses or on the experiences that state representatives have. The existing narratives influence if social workers in a specific context choose to do extra-work to help the individuals in need.
Interested in pursuing the Advanced Certificate in Romani Studies Program? Complete the interest form by September 30!